Years have passed since the inception of IT. Still, it is evolving and getting defined with the latest trends. Each passing day new technology emerges, engineering and innovations are changing world. Things are moving at extreme speed, and it is becoming challenging to keep up with it. However, things are a little different in real-world IT.
In the last article, we discussed the fundamentals of IT. In this segment, we will dig deeper into the same.
Does having a strong team and better project management strategy ensures a successful project?
Over the past few decades, IT project management has evolved enormously. PMI, PMP, Six Sigma, Lean, T&M, and many more methodologies have been proposed for IT project management. Parallelly a lot of project management tools have been build to reduce the manual overhead and streamline the process as Scoro, ProofHub, Basecamp, Asana, Podio, JIRA, WorkZone, and many more.
All of these processes are aiming towards avoiding failures from a business standpoint. As Henry Petroski said, “Failure is central to engineering. Every single calculation that an engineer makes is a failure calculation. Successful engineering is all about understanding how things break or fail.” Both are self-contradictory and aim at different goals.
Process improvement lifecycle
Tom DeMarco stated, “While the machines have changed enormously. The business of software development has been rather static”. Despite the evolution of the process and tools, the core remains more or less the same. Projects transpire business decisions and are build per process improvements. Hence they resemble with business process improvement lifecycle. It is a 5 step process, each aiming to serve a specific purpose.
- Discover – Aims at creating process improvement charter
- Analyze – process metrics and execution costs
- Redesign – Financial projections
- Implement – KPI definition
- Monitor – KPI report
Since the process improvement defines the KPI’s, projects are generally built as measures for process improvement systematically. As part of measuring the outcome, the business realization lifecycle method. It consists of 4 steps and uses business process improvement outputs.
- Identify – Identify KPI’s
- Measure – Measure the realization of KPI’s against set metrics
- Execute – Execution of defined activities
- Sustain – Audit and comply with defined KPI’s and financials.
So how does one define KPI?
It follows a basic lifecycle with the eight steps. It begins with questions and gradually evolves into a quantifiable unit.
- Why? – Deals with the first and most critical question “why are we doing what we are doing.” If one is going to spend time and effort in building and doing something, at the very least, they must know why are they doing it? It acts as a motivation for the entire project. It often results in specifying the vision of the project.
- Strategy – These are a series of steps followed to realize the specific objectives.
- What’s the worth? – One of the most common measures for the success of an initiative is financial realization and fiscal investment. Is it worth spending this much on it? In general norms, it is called a return on investment (ROI).
- Plan the journey – Deals with planning a systematic approach to solve the mentioned problem. It also deals with defining milestones that are to achieve.
- Behaviors – It is about measuring the success of defined KPI
- Use the method
- The small cycle – smaller iterations to the bigger problem
- The long view – Define the long term vision for the problem solution.
What is the project plan?
Due to such a rigorous and kind of rigid process, project management becomes a realization to achieve similar goals. It deals with identifying relevant stakeholders, scoping out requirements, projecting and estimating the cost, preparing a schedule, identifying the risks, communicating the risks, identifying the resources, procurement of necessary assets, performing necessary integrations, and measuring quality.
The biggest challenge as a project manager is to come up with a project plan and present it systematically. Not everything well planned goes as planned due to various reasons. It makes project management an iterative multifacet problem. Let’s discuss the same.
Project plan constituents
- Statement of Work – Often called SOW, is a draft understanding of client requirements. It needs to be brief but adequate to contain all requirements from the client. It is the most crucial and often misleading step of project management as often there might be gaps in client requirements and the project manager or project team’s understanding.
- Internal review – “The real problem starts when you know what you want.” As a project manager, one is responsible for performing a feasibility analysis by engaging SMEs for specific activities. For example, a technical architect or an engineering manager to evaluate the technical feasibility of the given requirement, or be it a solutions architect to analyze the infrastructure requirements.
- Client review negotiation – Neither everything technically achievable is financially realizable, nor everything financially feasible will be technically possible in a given timeframe. As a project manager, it is about finding the right balance between time, cost, and material, also referred to as a negotiation.
- Work authorization – Not all the technical or required expertise will be available inhouse. Often companies go for recruitment, contractual employee onboarding, or project outsourcing to service providers. In the latter ones, one must have the legally valid contractual agreement between main and contractual entities, termed as service level agreements. As a project manager, one will be responsible for managing contractual agreements and authorizing respective entities or individuals to perform necessary operations.
- Project monitoring – Is about tracking the activities, communicating progress, and keeping respective parties informed about the same. It also deals with financials, timelines, and work log completed.
- Revised project plan – Based on irregularities in planned activities and various other factors, if the original proposed plan doesn’t hold good, then it needs to be modified to realize the revised timelines, financials, and similar details.
- The client requested changes – since the chances of the end-user or clients defining the additional requirement during the execution steps are very high, a project manager is also responsible for accomodating the same as part of the project charter.
- Project execution – It is the actual process of executing the deliverables.
- Baseline project plan
- Proposal project plan
- Preliminary project plan
As various factors might hinder the project timeline and execution workflow, project managers prepare multiple plans as the baseline (if all goes well), proposal (consists of an adequate amount of buffer against assumptions), and preliminary (a version sent for review and approval).
All the mentioned details collated into a systematic document referred to as project charter. It constitutes the project overview, project details, project scope, project team organization, project resource planning, project communication plan, and project timeline.
Elements of project management
For a successful project or a product, an effective project manager is vital. Many startups fail due to the same reason. Communication and collaboration are the essences of a successful project team. It is a mantra that consists of
- Effective planning and realizable schedule preparation
- Communication and collaboration between stakeholders, teams, and consumers, if applicable.
- Documentation – SOW, Assumptions, requirements, API docs, and many more are living documents that evolve and need to be maintained.
- Resource management – Physical and non-physical assets, human resources, financials, and many more required to complete a defined activity. Time, cost, and material (bill-of-material / BOM) are three pillars for successful execution.
- Risk estimation – Anything that can inversely and adversely affect the pillars is a risk. Risks need to be evaluated and estimated for its impact.
- The reporting – Audit or reporting is a process of visualizing the proposed versus actuals.
- Baseline and estimates – Planned activities with risk caveats together referred to as the baseline for an estimate. As and when the risk factors change and evolve, it might have an impact on financials, timelines, and resource requirements.
Now having understood the project management lifecycle and its elements, one might wonder does having a solid fail-proof plan and a project manager ensures the success of a project? The answer is not.
Project management is precedented by a rigorous process of project execution workflow. There are various factors such as business priority change, in-appropriate budget estimations, timeline conflicts, non-justifiable ROI, changing KPI’s, and many more.
These are living and evolving things, from a process perspective, these are followed in an iterative and timely manner referred to as financial audits, control towers, steering committee meetings, and similar synonyms. In these meetings, a post-review it is decided to continue or stop the project.
In the next article, we will go over conflicts of interest of project managers and the engineering community. Stay tuned for more.